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Player Analysis

Captain Obvious: Week 4

by Steve Rothgeb
Updated On: October 3, 2020, 6:09 pm ET

Welcome back for another round of FPL captaincy debate!

Did you want goals this season? Because...we have goals. Arby’s may have the meats but the PL has the goals. Seven clubs last weekend scored at least three goals. Seven clean sheets have been kept around the entire league over the last two weekends combined. VAR may have a hand in the spike of goals, a lack of live fans might play a factor. Whatever the case may be, fantasy managers like to see those goals go in. Right out of the gate in Week 1, I had Trent Alexander-Arnold on my armband shortlist and stood on my soapbox that the fullback was just as legit a captaincy option as any of the more customary attacking-positioned players. Well, if clean sheets rates are dropping this far, maybe I need to have a rethink. That, and TAA is currently the third highest-scoring defender...on his own team.

Right. I will cut to the chase. I am not a happy camper this week. As a Spurs fan, I am still feeling incensed about the call that led to two points flushed down the drain at the very death of a match that, I am sorry, Tottenham deserved to win. Adding injury to insult, after having sold Heung-Min Son ahead of Week 2 and getting an uppercut to the chin for that decision, the fury burns all the more having brought him back in for Week 3 only to get a blank and an injury flag that is going to force me to move him right back out again. It has been, in every possible way, a nightmare beginning to my classic FPL experience. Draft leagues? No problem. Steady as she goes. But wow, FPL can be unforgiving when you make a bad move. Because, it’s not just a single move that can linger in you mind for weeks, but, as is the case with Son, it can be a catalyst for a series of bad moves, trying to erase the previous bad move by simply adding more on top. Feels like a metaphor for 2020, but let’s leave it at that.

Here is hoping, in all sincerity, you enjoyed a better Week 3 than I did. Either way, the beat goes on, so let’s take a look at the Week 4 edition of Captain Obvious...

 

Mo Salah (12.1m), Sadio Mané (11.9m)

Rostered % - 37.6% (holding steady), 12.3% (rising)

Opponent - Aston Villa (away)

Really, Steve? Right out of the gate you are hedging your bet and co-nominating two players on the same team? Well, yes, I am doing that...and I have no shame. Here is the thing. Unless you are among a very, very small group of managers who have both Salah and Mane rostered, you are in the same boat that virtually all of us are, you either have one or the other. So, it’s never really a question of which is the better option of the two to captain, it is a question of how much you back Liverpool in a given round. After opening the season with the highest score in the league, Mo Salah has seen his teammate Sadio Mané catch up to within three points just two weeks later. 

I maintain that, in a vacuum, Salah is a better option than Mane for the armband. The Egyptian international has the edge in shots taken so far through three games (17 vs. 13) as well as key passes (11 vs. 6). You add those stats together, and Salah has been involved in 28 potential goals to Mane’s 19. However, if you are a Mane owner, I think you have to look at him the same way you would as a Salah owner. Luck is going to play a factor in the outcome of your armband choice, as it always will. Luck also will factor in, week to week, which of the two big Liverpool options outperforms the other.

Now, let’s address the elephant in the room - Aston Villa have not given up a goal yet this season. I repeat - Aston Villa has not given up a goal yet this season. As if 2020 didn’t feel like one long marathon episode of “Black Mirror”, I am still trying to wrap my head around this. I am in a draft league, non-FPL, where Tyrone Mings is the highest-scoring player in the game. And again, that’s playing only twice versus three times like the majority of the league. So, how legit is this defense? Well, the addition of Emiliano Martinez looks a master stroke. And Ezri Konsa looks to have matured into a solid center back to partner with Mings. But let’s pump the brakes here. Stopping Liverpool is a monumental task. We are going off of the success of shutting down the attacks of Sheffield United and Fulham, hardly a fair litmus test of what to expect for the season. Still, I recognize a positive step for Villa and see this fixture as a little trickier than it did for Liverpool when the season started.

 

 

Kevin De Bruyne (11.6m)

Rostered % - 43.3% (rising steady)

Opponent - Leeds United (away)

So, who was the worst defensive team over the weekend? Fulham? Nah, that’s too obvious. West Brom? Solid guess, but not quite. No, that distinction goes to the club that three out of four staff members here at Rotoworld peg to win the league title this season. Manchester City could not sign a defender fast enough after the spanking they took at the hands of Leicester City. What does their defending have to do when looking for a captaincy option? Well, not necessarily much at all for most sides, but until City can settle their defense, they are going to need goals to outslug their opponents. Yes, they got sliced apart for five goals...but hey, they still scored twice.

Kevin De Bruyne only had Week 2 to work off of heading into the loss against the Foxes, so it is a small sample size for his attacking numbers, but despite other aspects of City in question at the moment, the Belgian’s role appears to have the same amount of consistency we are accustomed to and we should consider him a captaincy option nearly every week until further notice. In Week 2, KDB had six key passes and four shots on target. Versus Leicester, he fell to three key passes and of the only two shots he took, neither hit the target. 

These factors do not make me feel like de Bruyne should fall to a lower-tiered option this week. Instead, I see it as a reason he may see his captaincy rate around FPL lower in Week 4 than it otherwise would be had he come out of the Leicester game with any sort of attacking return. A blank from even the best players can cause many a manager to turn their back on that player the following week. However, I would argue that the best players are who they are because they never go long before reminding you how good they really are. After two goalfests for Leeds in the first two weeks, this might look like another, but the Peacocks are coming off a 0-1 tight affair against Sheffield United. Do not expect to see a tight one here. Five goals split between these two sides seems much more reasonable to expect. Chances are, De Bruyne is going to factor in.

 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (7.4m)

Rostered % - 36.5% (rising fast)

Opponent - Brighton (home)

What a month it has been for Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Congratulations, kid. You have graduated to the big leagues. Yes, it may only last for one week. One blank could make the idea of captaining DCL an absurd one, but you have to strike while the iron is hot and this iron is en fuego. Trailing Jamie Vardy by a single point for top scoring player in FPL through the first three weeks, DCL is putting on a clinic, scoring in all three games, which included a hat trick. Oh, is it hat tricks you like? Well, last night in domestic cup action against West Ham...he had ANOTHER ONE. This man has found the net eight times in the last EIGHTEEN DAYS. That is ridiculous. Surely, unmaintainable form, there is no question about that, but can you imagine the level of confidence coursing through his veins at the moment. Why is he not in my FPL side yet? WHY? Well, if I am looking to figure out why my rank after three weeks is less than desirable, I think there is a connection between these two questions.

Personally, while I cannot dismiss anyone’s logic behind backing form this hot, I get the feeling that the DCL fever will cool off sooner rather than later. I think he’s going to end this season with his best career numbers yet, but is he a 20-goal guy? I still have some doubts. Playing up top alongside Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin does not get the same volume of service that you would expect from a lone striker. He has scored five times to date on just seven shots on target. While you cannot fault him for his accuracy, it is a bit on the low side of chances. Only one key pass in three matches too, so if you are looking for assist help, he has not shown signs of that being a source of production. Still, the form is undeniable and Everton’s attack as a whole looks so much healthier compared to a season ago, you get the feeling that while DCL’s chances may be limited in comparison to other armband options, those chances will be high-quality ones. The fixture is appealing enough, home to a Brighton side that has some attacking players in top form as well. I think there will be goals here, with two goals for Everton feeling like a realistic floor. 

 

Raúl Jiménez (9.5m)

Rostered % - 23.5% (rising steady)

Opponent - Fulham (home)

This is the ultimate in testing out the oldest argument in FPL: What matters most, form or fixture? I think most people would tell you “form”. But, when the fixture is home to Fulham...well, that feels like a whole other universe. Yes, Fulham are that bad defensively, again. Through three games, there are no signs of any improvement from the side two seasons ago that were battered and beaten to a last-place finish and most goals conceded. A popular trend, pick a captain from whoever is playing the Cottagers, began to become a rewarding tactic and all signs point to it being true again this season.

Some folks have had an eye on Jimenez as captain for a couple of weeks now, others have made their transfer plans around making sure to get him in for this fixture. So, of course the Premier League had to go and turn what appeared a can’t-miss decision into a questionable one. You see, in the last two weeks, Wolves have not been good. In fact, being outscored seven goals to one in those games, it may be the worst back-to-back performances they have had under Nuno Espirito Santo. I mean, it’s one thing to lose to Manchester City by a couple of goals, it can happen to the best of clubs. But a 4-0 loss to West Ham? That is concerning. Jimenez has seen his shot count go down for two straight weeks as well. After firing five times in Week 1, he dropped his shot count to three in Week 2 and only two in the loss to the Hammers.

So, which trend holds true? My bet is that Fulham will cough up goals. And, while one cannot guarantee that Jimenez will reap the rewards, he is the best candidate on the team to put up points. 

 

Other options - He is currently injury flagged and with this column coming out over 48 hours before the deadline, I felt it prudent to leave him off the shortlist but, if given the green light ahead of Week 4, then Jamie Vardy is deserving of top-tier consideration. He has a brace and a hat trick in two of the first three games. That is the sort of thing that captains do. And we have seen Vardy go on extended streaks of attacking returns before. The fixture is tantalizing, at home to West Ham. Though, considering the total so far is five goals away, zero goals at home, maybe we would feel even better about him away from King Power Stadium? (I think you should be feeling good home or away here) Yeah, so monitor his status. We know he is the sort to lace his boots up unless he absolutely cannot go and with the Foxes off to a flying start, why not ride the wave?

Again, City are always the sort capable of putting up three or more goals in a given week, so usually there is more than one clear captaincy choice to be had among their squad. The choice would seem to come down to Riyad Mahrez or Raheem Sterling. Mahrez is the one with the form on his side while Sterling is the one with reputation on his. I mean, when a player costs 11.5m, he BETTER be armband material. Surely he is due a return sooner rather than later. If you have him in your team, I cannot begrudge rolling the dice on him as a massive differential.

One trend that was consistent all last season and seems to have carried over into this one is the complete lack of fantasy respect for one Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Last season, despite being among the highest scoring forwards in FPL from start to finish, his price tag never went up and his captaincy rate was very low compared to his output. Flash forward to September 2020, and what has happened? Among the most popular choices for the armband in Weeks 1 and 2, PEA did not blank in either of those rounds, getting an attacking return in each. So, how does the FPL community pay him back? By doing a mass transfer out ahead of Week 3 and his price is now below that of opening day. Geez, that was quick. Well, if you actually have respect for the Arsenal man, I think he is worth a shout as a captaincy choice this week. The Gunners are at home taking on a Sheffield United side that, let’s face it, aren’t going to be the defensive stalwarts they were last season. Replacing Dean Henderson with Aaron Ramsdale and expecting the Blades to not skip a beat was a tall order. Now, with Jack O’Connell sidelined for likely the remainder of the season, that is another key piece of the puzzle gone from the Blades. So, I feel a home game against them right now should be looked at as a “plus” fixture.

Finally, the form and fixture are there, it’s only a matter of trust when it comes to Danny Ings. Three goals in his last two games, there is your form. Home to West Brom, there is your fixture. Certainly another armband option that would provide a huge differential and is not the craziest of ideas.

 

Hit me up on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles and let me know your thoughts on who you've nominated for captain and why. Good luck with your selection this weekend and may your arrows be green.

Steve Rothgeb
Steve Rothgeb is a contributor for Rotoworld.com and WorldSoccerTalk.com, a self-proclaimed fantasy sports oracle, and Tottenham Hotspur fanatic. He can be found on Twitter @FuzzyWarbles.